September 26, 2014
By Joseph von Benedikt & Ben O'Brien
Let's face it: Crossbows have a certain cool, fantasy character panache, they just aren't as versatile as a vertical bow. Besides, they aren't as safe.
Vertical bows weigh less and are far more maneuverable. Plus, for the most part, they're much quieter. I worked partway through college in an archery pro shop, and you could always tell when someone was shooting a crossbow in the indoor lanes. Instead of the ageless, almost silent thrummm of a vertical bow, a crossbow gives off a spiteful crack.
Perhaps most importantly, fast follow-up shots are possible with a vertical bow. Not so with a crossbow: Get out the crank, untangle the drawstring, hook the blasted thing up, and pull that thing to full draw. Unhook the crank and drawstring, put them away, fish out a bolt, and gingerly lay it in place. Ugh.
As for safety, you can't just let down a cocked crossbow if you decide not to shoot. You cock it at the beginning of your hunt, and at the end, you've got to fire the durned thing. That means either dulling a broadhead or carefully switching out your hunting arrow with one with a field point or judo point on it and firing at the nearest clump of grass.
Finally, you'll hear the argument that crossbows are easier to shoot accurately and thus more ethical. Balderdash. I'll concede that if you never practice, you can likely pick up a properly sighted-in crossbow and make better hits with it than with a vertical bow, but that's pure laziness talking.
Bowhunting isn't about convenience. Pit most crossbow shooters against good vertical bow shooters, and nine times out of 10 the vertical bow shooter will smoke the crossbow shooter in terms of accuracy and have the course of fire finished far sooner.
— Joseph von Benedikt
You know what's ironic about crossbows? The same grey-haired traditionalists that have rejected every new-fangled contraption since the compound bow are the same folks that stand to benefit from this most recent innovation.
Fact: Crossbows allow the chronically injured, disabled, or those otherwise incapable of drawing a vertical bow to go afield during bow season, thus extending the days that these folks (who are mostly elderly) can hunt.
So if you oppose the use of crossbows, you hate the elderly...and likely hate America. Shame on you.
Contrary to popular belief, crossbows aren't more dangerous than verticals, either. It's a myth. There have been no more documented cases of injuries and/or accidents with x-bows than there have with verticals. If you look at 30 years of data, accident rates are identical for both types. Crossbows also come complete with an overwhelming amount of safety instructions, handguards, and other mechanisms to prevent users from stumbling into injury.
X-bows are also faster and more deadly — roughly 30-40 fps and 30 foot-pounds of kinetic energy more than compounds. But speed isn't always the answer. While the vertical bow guy is standing over there, knees trembling, worrying about when to draw on that giant buck or bull, crossbow guy is in point-and-shoot mode.
The result is more ethical, well-placed shots that aren't hampered by the various roadblocks thrown down by the need to draw and hold a vertical bow. Sure, skilled archers that shoot compounds can most likely match crossbow hunters in accuracy, but they can never duplicate ease of use in the most intimate hunting situations.
— Ben O'Brien
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.